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I thought about calling this ‘Just because I smile at you, doesn’t mean I want you’ but I’m pretty sure that’s the name of a song. It’s not directed at all men, or men I know, but at men I used to know…

There are, in my life, a few men who I no longer speak to, not because of any real falling out, but because they couldn’t handle when I said those dreaded words: let’s just be friends. But what I really meant was ‘let’s stay friends’ or ‘did I ever pretend to want to get into your trousers?’ Unfortunately, what they heard was ‘you make me ill, and now I will laugh at you with my girlfriends while we scope for studs to fuck.’

The question to pose is of course why the male portion of the population insists that if a lady smiles, nay, looks his way, she must be dreaming of a long, hot, relationship with him. If she speaks to him, she wants to have his babies. And so on. The slightest bit of attention paid to a man by a woman will be misconstrued in innumerable ways to the point where every action she takes must then be carefully weighed and thought out beforehand. And casual touching is almost always ruled out.

Some of this may be attributed to the fact that we live in a very cold society. People are taught from an early age not to look at other people. Any show of niceness can be looked at with suspicion. Touching of all sorts is often reserved for love/sexual relationships. We are trained to be separate from each other. If you put fifteen people who don’t know each other in a room twice a week for three months (i.e. a college class) at the end of the experiment, people still avoid looking in each others’ eyes.

Now, couple this isolation-as-a-normal-state with your average male’s sexual drive, and any contact made from human to human is easily going to be taken as an invitation for something more than friendship. Because supposedly people aren’t supposed to make friends that way. It’s no longer proper to just talk to someone, unless you are cruising for some action.

The normal course of events would be to meet friends through other friends. Or through someone you are dating. Always through someone else. That way you know they are safe, you know they are safe, and the boundary is clearly established through your mutual contact, with no need to work it out on your own. So, a woman talking to a random man who looks interesting is going to be taken as a gesture of sexual interest. And if she is friends with him long enough, that friendship will be taken as a gesture of emotional interest.

So, what ends up happening? The man will, judging there to be interest, profess his feelings, and then is terribly hurt when the woman says that phrase again: I just want to be friends. Because she did just want to be friends. Of course there are those women who are playing on the emotions of the men around them, playing a subtle game of chase where only they win, but that isn’t most women. There are a lot of social ambiguities surrounding platonic friendship between men and women, and, in most cases, no one meant to hurt anyone else. Everyone just happens to be a little confused.

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